Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wild about Garlic

A Wild Garlic broth for Emily

My niece, Emily, loves these broths that I make, and this recipe is especially here for her.
This recipe coincides with the arrival of one of my favourite ingredients of the year, wild garlic. I have been desperately awaiting its appearance and even though the leaves are up the flowers are still hiding. The moment the flowers come out, I will post a photograph straight away so that it becomes easier to identify. Search this marvellous ingredient out as it is really quite special and has so many different uses.

For this recipe, I start by making a chicken stock and that stock becomes the base for what I call chicken broths. Before we go any further, let us try and clear up the confusion that arises between stock and broth. When I find myself in a situation like this, as in trying to find a proper description of an ingredient or a dish, I reach immediately for the late Alan Davidson’s wonderful reference book, The Penguin Companion to Food. Alan quotes another wonderful writer, the late Theodora Fitzgibbon when describing stock. She wrote:
“The word covers many culinary preparations, but generally speaking a stock is the liquid extracted from fish, meat, poultry or vegetables by slow cooking with water, or wine and water.”
 I think that is pretty clear.

 On the subject of broth, Alan himself wrote:
“It could be said that broth occupies an intermediate position between stock and soup. A broth (e.g. chicken broth) can be eaten as it is, whereas a stock (e.g. chicken stock) would normally be consumed only as an ingredient in something more complex. A soup, on the other hand, would usually be less simple, more “finished”, than a broth.”
Does that clear up the confusion? I hope so, because clarity is all when it comes to broth, really it is, in fact your broth should be sparklingly clear.

Chicken Stock

Chicken stock is indispensable. For soup making, sauces and gravies it really has no substitute. There are a couple of important rules to remember when making chicken stock and they apply to all stock making. Choose a saucepan that the ingredients fit snugly into. If your saucepan is too big, you will have too much water and as a result will end up with a watery stock that is lacking in flavour. Always pour cold water over the ingredients, as the cold water will draw the flavour out of the bones and vegetables as it comes up to the boil. Remember it is the flavoured liquid you are after here so getting the flavour into the liquid is vital. Bring the contents of the pan slowly to the boil and then only allow the stock to simmer gently as it cooks. If it boils, it will loosen solid particles from the meat and vegetables and your stock will taste rather muddy and look cloudy. The ideal result is a sparklingly clear and well-flavoured liquid. I prefer not to cover the stock when it is cooking as I feel it can cause the stock to cloud up. A rich and well-flavoured chicken stock can be achieved in two hours and I find that cooking the stock for hours on end makes it too strong and the sweet chicken flavour becomes too strong and some of the delicacy is lost. The stock will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen.

2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both
Giblets from the chicken, i.e. neck, heart, gizzard are optional
3.4L (6 Pints) cold water, approx
1 sliced onion
1 leek, split in two
1 outside stick of celery or 1 lovage leaf
1 sliced carrot
Few parsley stalks
Sprig of thyme
6 peppercorns

Chop or break up the carcasses as much as possible.  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly up to the boil and skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.  Simmer very gently for 2 hours, uncovered.  Strain and remove any remaining fat.  If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-third or one-half the volume.  Do not add salt.

Wild Garlic Broth

There are two types of wild garlic that grow in profusion in Ireland. They are both part of the Allium family. Around where I live in east Cork, the first variety starts to appear as early as march. This is the long, skinny leaved garlic, sometimes called Three-Cornered Garlic or Snow Bell.  It produces a little bunch of white bell shaped flowers, hence the name, Snow Bell. This variety seems to thrive on the sunny side of the road but will also succeed in the shade. The other variety, called Ransoms arrives a bit later and is happiest growing in the shade. It has long, wide, elegant and shiny leaves and the flowers on this variety are in a little typical allium pom pom. Either of the two types of wild garlic will do for this recipe. Don’t forget that they can be used in other soups, with grilled or braised fish, meat and poultry, in salads, flavoured butters, sauces and so on. It is well worth trying to get a little patch of either garlic established in your garden. However, beware, as both varieties will spread in all directions if given the chance.
The key to the success of this recipe, is the addition of the wild garlic to the broth just a few minutes before you are going to eat it. This way the garlic will still be bright green in colour and vibrant in taste when it arrives at the table. Some times the little flowers, which I urge you to use, will float to the surface of the hot broth and sit there like little water lilies or lotus flowers. Now that’s a bonus.

Serves 4-6

6 oz / 175g potatoes, peeled and cut into neat 1cm / ½ in dice
6 oz / 175g onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 oz / 50g butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 pints / 1.2l chicken stock
Salt and pepper

1 pint / 600ml of finely chopped garlic leaves, tightly packed into the measure
8fl oz / 225ml garlic flowers.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and allow to foam. Add the potatoes, onions and chopped garlic cloves. Coat in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or greaseproof paper and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook on a very low heat to allow the vegetables to sweat gently until barely tender. This will take about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook and allow the diced potato to collapse. Add the stock, stir gently and bring to a simmer and cook gently for a further 5 minutes.  Do not replace the lid on the saucepan. Taste and correct seasoning. This is the base and can be put aside until later.
To finish the soup, bring the base back to the boil. Add the garlic leaves and allow to just wilt. This will only take a couple of minutes. Finally sprinkle in the flowers and serve immediately.



  1. Sounds great for a spring soup. I have jsut found some three cornered garlic in my garden in Peckham and will try this out for Sunday lunch and report back

  2. Thanks for the clarification re the 2 types of garlic. I usually use the East Cork variety, however, yesterday with friends in durrow, I was offered acreas of the large leaf variety. I noticed the flower was more rounded and spiky. I will use some with the spinach and dandelion leaves to stuff my pansotti. Thanks iolanda, from kildare

  3. That wasn't kale that you were using tonight on your rte program, it was sprouting broccoli... Iolanda

  4. That wasn't kale that you were using tonight on your rte program, it was sprouting broccoli... Iolanda